Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

How long am I going to have to leave my flat-screen TV in energy saving mode to make up for this?

Posted by Daniel Hall on October 27, 2008

Bad news of the day comes from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography:

Potent Greenhouse Gas More Prevalent in Atmosphere than Previously Assumed

A powerful greenhouse gas is at least four times more prevalent in the atmosphere than previously estimated, according to a team of researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

Using new analytical techniques, a team led by Scripps geochemistry professor Ray Weiss made the first atmospheric measurements of nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), which is thousands of times more effective at warming the atmosphere than an equal mass of carbon dioxide.

The amount of the gas in the atmosphere, which could not be detected using previous techniques, had been estimated at less than 1,200 metric tons in 2006. The new research shows the actual amount was 4,200 metric tons. In 2008, about 5,400 metric tons of the gas was in the atmosphere, a quantity that is increasing at about 11 percent per year. …

Emissions of NF3 were thought to be so low that the gas was not considered to be a significant potential contributor to global warming. It was not covered by the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions signed by 182 countries. The gas is 17,000 times more potent as a global warming agent than a similar mass of carbon dioxide. It survives in the atmosphere about five times longer than carbon dioxide. Current NF3 emissions, however, contribute only about 0.04 percent of the total global warming effect contributed by current human-produced carbon dioxide emissions.

Nitrogen trifluoride is one of several gases used during the manufacture of liquid crystal flat-panel displays, thin-film photovoltaic cells and microcircuits. Many industries have used the gas in recent years as an alternative to perfluorocarbons, which are also potent greenhouse gases, because it was believed that no more than 2 percent of the NF3 used in these processes escaped into the atmosphere. …

The researchers found concentrations of the gas rose from about 0.02 parts per trillion in 1978 to 0.454 parts per trillion in 2008. The samples also showed significantly higher concentrations of NF3 in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere, which the researchers said is consistent with its use predominantly in Northern Hemisphere countries. The current observed rate of increase of NF3 in the atmosphere corresponds to emissions of about 16 percent of the amount of the gas produced globally.

2 Responses to “How long am I going to have to leave my flat-screen TV in energy saving mode to make up for this?”

  1. This is the first time I commented here and I must say that you give us genuine, and quality information for bloggers! Good job.
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  2. Ganz schön formuliert – super.

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